Missouri’s “Lead Belt” Poised for American Battery Supply Chain 

Southeast Missouri’s rich deposits of lead ore made it a prime location for lead mining in the 19th and early 20th centuries, supplying lead not only for batteries but also for other applications such as ammunition, construction materials, and various industrial processes. The region, which became known as The Lead Belt, spans several counties, including St. Francois, Madison, Washington, and Jefferson County, and has played a significant role in the history of mining in the United States. 

While lead is still a valuable resource in Missouri’s robust battery industry, private and federal investments in other critical minerals needed to produce next-generation batteries could create an end-to-end supply chain in the state, making it an American hub for strategic battery materials. 

In 2024, The Doe Run Company, which operates one of the world’s largest lead mining districts in Southeast Missouri, was awarded a $7 million Department of Defense Critical Minerals Project Grant under the Defense Production Act to produce cobalt and nickel products. Doe Run’s minerals and metals resources include lead, copper, zinc, cobalt, nickel, antimony, and tin – all essential in the production of battery energy solutions.

In 2023, U.S. Strategic Metals received a $230 million investment from Appian Capital Advisory LLP, a London-based mining financier, which will allow it to complete the first phase of processing operations in a former Fredericktown, Missouri, lead mine that contains the largest reserve of recoverable cobalt in America. U.S. Strategic Materials CEO Stacy Hastie called the milestone a “game-changer” for the U.S. auto industry and battery manufacturing supply chain that will bring cobalt production to the U.S. 

In the same year, the Biden-Harris administration designated two tech hubs in Missouri; one in the Kansas City region and another in Rolla. The latter, Missouri S&T’s Critical Minerals and Materials for Advanced Energy (CM2AE) Tech Hub, will “position south-central Missouri as a global leader in critical minerals processing to provide the materials needed to support battery technology” according to the U.S. Economic Development Administration. With the designation, the group received initial funding to begin planning and is eligible to apply for more to continue its efforts. 

According to The Doe Run Company, “Presently, the U.S. is 100% reliant on net imports for 15 minerals, 12 of which are on the critical minerals list. China and Canada supply the largest number of these nonfuel mineral commodities.” Recent major investments in Missouri critical minerals production aim to reduce reliance on imports of mineral commodities.

Missouri is naturally a top state for electric vehicle (EV) battery manufacturers because of its access to key raw materials such as lithium, cobalt, and nickel, as well as its affordable and reliable energy sources, which are crucial for energy-intensive manufacturing processes.

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